The Second Largest Prison System

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The state of California has the third largest prison system in the world and the largest in the United States. To understand how California got to this point in prison reform, you have to go back as far as 1994 when Proposition 184 was approved by voters with a 72% majority vote. Proposition 184 was the strictest "three strikes" sentencing law in the United States, which doubled the penalty for a second felony if the first one was serious or violent and carried a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony (Greenwood, 1994). California went a step further by being one of the only states where the third felony did not have to be a serious or violent crime to count. The expansion of the three–strikes legislation…show more content…
According to research, Clemmitt (2007) states: “Prior to the 1980s, rehab was a strong component in correctional health thinking”, says M. Douglas Anglin, associate director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Then you had a huge philosophical shift. Rehab had shown only marginal results, so the thinking became, 'let’s throw a sentence at people’.
As a result, Congress and state lawmakers enacted a plethora of tough-on-crime laws — such as minimum sentencing and three-strike laws — that ended up mandating incarceration even for nonviolent drug users and low-level dealers (Katel, 2007). Yet despite a large percentage of inmates in California prisons being addicts and mentally ill, lawmakers continued to cut funding for drug and mental-health treatment programs both inside and outside of prisons. Policy at that time was directed at solving the drug problem through imprisonment. As inmate levels increased to record levels, so did the volume of law suits filed by prisoners. From the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s, federal courts experienced an unexpected increase in prisoner litigation. Most complaints were focused on an inmate’s constitutional right to due process being violated because of an overwhelming rise in the inmate population which was backing up the court system. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1995 was designed to significantly decrease the volume by
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